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Academic Paper

Title: VC vs. CV syllables: a comparison of Aboriginal languages with English
Author: Marija Tabain
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: La Trobe University
Author: Gavan Breen
Institution: Institute for Aboriginal Development
Author: Andrew Butcher
Institution: Flinders University
Linguistic Field: Phonetics; Phonology
Subject Language: Yanyuwa
Abstract: Traditionally, phonological theory has held that the CV syllable is the basic syllable type across the world's languages. Recently however, Breen and Pensalfini (1999) have challenged the primacy of the CV syllable in phonological theory with data from Arrernte, an Aboriginal language spoken in central Australia. In this study, we set out to see if there is any acoustic phonetic basis to Breen and Pensalfini's claim. We examine real-word data from one speaker of Arrernte, five speakers of English, and three speakers each of Yanyuwa and Yindjibarndi (these are two other Aboriginal languages). Using F2 and F3 measures of the consonant, and locus equation measures, we find that CV does show more stability than VC in the English speakers' data, but that for the Aboriginal language speakers' data, there is a parity between the CV and VC measures. We suggest that this greater parity may be a necessary constraint on languages which have multiple places of articulation (six in the case of the Aboriginal languages studied here). We propose an alternative view of suprasegmental organization, and we suggest that more work is needed in order to understand the phonetic bases of suprasegmental structure.


This article appears IN Journal of the International Phonetic Association Vol. 34, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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